The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
I served in the United States Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from May, 1967 to sometime in late 1968. In 1967, I was part of a group of Marines who were the aggressors for the Reservists that came there for two weeks of training.
We lived in the field and made their lives miserable. We always drank the water on base, showered with it, and washed our mess kits and clothing in it. While in the field training we had so many tick bites we had lumps on our necks from the bites which were infected and they gave us an antibiotic to treat it and kept us from doing these training exercises for a short time. I will be 67 years of age soon and I still have sores on my scalp like I did back then.
I went back into the Marine Corps Reserves and we trained at 29 Palms, California for three two-week training missions from 1982/1983 to 1985/1986 when I left the reserves. I drank the water and showered in the water there as well and I heard was contaminated. We were also at Parris Island and Camp Geiger.
In 1973 my first daughter was born. She now suffers from migraines like me. Her daughter was born with juvenile diabetes. I have two sons from a second marriage. My son was born in June, 1995 and has a slight form of Asperger’s. His brother was born in 1997 and has ADHD. I have PTSD along with concentration issues which they claim is either ADD or ADHD.
I wonder if Asperger’s, ADD or ADHD has been reported by some victims of this contamination.
Note from the Editor: The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.
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It seems that subsequent to the passage of the PACT Act and the resulting incessant television commercials from attorneys seeking a potentially large commission, everyone is aware of the contaminated water at Camp LeJeune. The sad fact is that administrators knew the water was highly contaminated for over 35 years but continued to subject personnel to it. That more than likely included their very own families that lived in officer’s quarters on the base. What we seldom hear about though is the multitude of other forms of contamination we were subjected to such as cleaning aviation parts in 5-gallon buckets without any means of personal protection. As ignorant young men and women, we thought it was hilarious that our hands would turn an orangish hue and swell up while performing this routine task. We were told that “if the Marine Corps wanted you to have gloves or other protective equipment, they would have issued it.” When we calibrated the fuel systems of aircraft, we had to do it outside the hangar for fear of accumulating flammable vapors within the hangar. It was not uncommon for personnel to become dizzy or disoriented while performing this calibration, especially if it was a particularly warm and humid day. We used to place Styrofoam cups in the fuel cell doors to block the vapors. Why? Because that’s how the personnel who did this before us instructed us to do it. The Styrofoam cups would disintegrate within a short period of time from the aviation fuel vapors and routinely required replacement. If the vapors could destroy Styrofoam, what were they doing to our lungs? These are just two examples of the multitude of unsafe conditions Marines were exposed to while serving our country. One did not have to serve in a combat zone to be subject to long-term injury while serving in the Corps. It was clear that nobody had even a modicum of concern for the young men and women performing their duties without the benefit of even the simplest form of protective equipment. What does a pair of chemical-resistant rubber gloves and a respirator cost in relation to the health of our young service members? But let’s get back to the contaminated water we drank, showered, ate food prepared with, laundered our clothing, etc. The experience I have had thus far entering into my sixth year since I initially filed a VA claim, is just more insult to one’s intelligence. You cannot subject living organisms, human beings, to the chemical and other contamination we were subjected to without expecting adverse results. If you don’t believe me, research who Elizabeth Betz was. She was the supervisory chemist at CLJ from 1979 to 1995 who had knowledge of the test results on the water that were conducted in 1982 by an outside testing laboratory. She wrote that “Trichloroethylene, like tetrachloroethylene and other halogenated hydrocarbons (i.e. Trihalomethanes) at high levels, has been reported to produce liver and kidney damage and central nervous system disturbances in humans.” Trichloroethylene is just one of a number of dry-cleaning chemicals that were present in the water in quantities far above and beyond what the EPA has established as allowable. It took 36 years for the prospect of justice to even be remotely possible with the passage of the PACT Act. How many more will succumb as a result of their exposure before the government takes responsibility for the egregious act of poisoning personnel that they allowed to occur for over three decades? Our political representatives passed the PACT Act. Now compel our government, particularly the VA, to expedite the process instead of creating impediments. The procrastination of justice for even one more second is justice denied.